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Great Lakes Article:

Power line opponents continue their fight
By John Myers
Duluth News Tribune
10/04/03


SOLON SPRINGS - The message was crystal clear Wednesday: Residents along the route of the proposed Arrowhead-Weston power line want the project scrapped.

That's what they told the Wisconsin Public Service Commission during an afternoon public hearing in Solon Springs.

Opponents criticized the power line's inflated price -- now more than $410 million -- and said it will cause aesthetic and potential environmental damage, harm human health and deflate property values. Further, they argued it would violate human rights in Manitoba.

Critics also said there is no proof the line is needed and that, if any line is built, another route should be selected.

Many expressed frustration that they seem powerless to fight the line, which is proposed by the American Transmission Co. Many landowners vowed to force the company to use condemnation proceedings to gain access to their land, and some threatened to do even more.

"Where are our rights? We don't have any say on what happens on our own property,' said Mary Ann Laajala, a Solon Springs resident who would live under the proposed line. "I will stand in front of their dozers. This is my home, and I won't give it up for the greed of the utilities."

Claire Schmidt of Madison testified that electricity on the line will originate from Manitoba hydroelectric dams that have flooded land owned by the Cree nation. Those dams have destroyed much of the Cree's traditional way of life, she said.

Others said the need for the line has been falsely represented.

The line will not help Northwestern Wisconsin, said Gordon resident Al Cambronne, who claimed it will funnel cheap electricity to lucrative eastern U.S. markets.

"Wisconsin does not need this destructive and wasteful transmission line," said Paul Taylor of Stone Lake. "Our freedom, our democracy is in danger when for-profit corporations can condemn private property."

At the hearing, proponents all were either city or chamber of commerce officials from Superior.

"We need to improve the infrastructure in the state of Wisconsin," said Superior Mayor Dave Ross. "It is very important for economic development that we have reliable energy."

Wisconsin has four high-voltage transmission lines (200 kilovolts or greater) connecting it to other states. By comparison, Minnesota has 18. The 345-kilovolt Arrowhead-Weston would carry 600 to 750 megawatts of electricity, enough to power about 180,000 to 225,000 homes.

Public Service Commission members did not attend the hearings Wednesday that were overseen by Administrative Law Judge David Whitcomb, but the testimony will be presented to them for a decision expected early next year.

Also on Wednesday, American Transmission Co. released the results of a Wisconsin Merchants Federation poll that shows 57 percent of people living in counties along the line's path support it.

Even if American Transmission receives state approval, much remains to be done before construction begins. The company still needs wetland permits from Wisconsin regulators, several counties oppose the project and will not allow it to cross their property, and the company hasn't received National Park Service permission to cross the Namekagon River.

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